by Thomas Gallagher, OFM
We are about to begin our annual pilgrimage of 90 days, starting with Ash Wednesday and continuing through Pentecost. Most of us have considered this to only be the first part of the journey, Lent. This season is given to us for our conversion and transformation. Remembering the Spirit’s gift at Pentecost brings us renewal in our lives, vocation, and mission.
The pilgrimage is fourfold: It begins with Lent, climbs the mountain of Transfiguration in Passion of the Lord, reaches its climax as God raises Jesus at Easter, and continues through Pentecost to the rest of our lives. Let us consider the process. It is about giving up, listening up, lifting up, and growing up.
We are asked to give up our false selves. We can let go of our pretense and recognize our giftedness. In this giving up, we are able to welcome the stranger, the poor, and the disenfranchised people of our lives. We give up oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech. We are invited to waive our surrender of chocolate, dessert, or caffeine. (Everyone in our lives will thank us.) We can surrender to the Spirit who calls us to the fullness of life.
We are invited to listen up. This is for us to engage in prayer. Our prayer is the lifting of our minds and hearts to God. This can take many forms. Parents loving their children are praying. Caring for aging parents is prayer. Sitting quietly and being attentive to the grace of God in prayer. Sitting with the scripture, gathering with the community for Mass, the Stations of the Cross, or adoration – all of this is prayer. Being attentive as we go for our walk can be our prayer. The form is less important than the openness to God’s presence. Often, it is only in subsequent reflection that we realize our experience of God’s presence.
Lift up your hearts to the Lord! As we are attentive to lifting up others, our lives are transformed. We are invited to lift up one another as we praise and thank the people of our lives. We lift up children as we recognize their gifts. Our care for the migrant, refugee, or homeless person is our stretching to hold God’s presence in the other. We are lifted up as we bend to care for one another.
The call to maturity in our faith is our growing up. This journey sets us free to praise God, to embrace the love of God already present in our lives. We know the right and the good. The rules are helpful guides, but only that. We discern the right things to do in many areas of our lives, and we can do the same in our faith life. As adults, we choose to follow Christ through Lent, the Cross, into Easter, and in wonder at the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit liberates us, enfolds us in God’s very being, and calls us, like Paul, to discover God’s grace in people thought to be forever outside God’s compassionate goodness.
We begin the journey together marked with ashes – with reflection on the passion, renewed in the waters of baptism, and enflamed with the fire of the Spirit.